Monday, 12 May 2008

Handbags and Gladrags

I have literally just set up this blog page so the first few posts may be a few weeks old or possibly longer as they have just been sitting burning a hole in my hard drive!
After Sir Alan Sugar’s tumultuous reign at Spurs, he remarked that all footballers were ‘scum’, and that most of them would probably be in prison were it not for the sport. An extreme view perhaps, but I certainly agree with the sentiment.

I am writing this with last week’s farcical scenes from Stamford Bridge fresh in my mind. There are of course farcical scenes emanating from Stamford Bridge and every other Premier League ground on a weekly basis, but this week’s winner goes to the visiting Genii of Manchester United, and their two-man vigilante gang of Ferdinand and Evra.

Firstly, after being substituted, Rio childishly lashed out with his foot at a wall that was cleverly disguised as a woman, in a manner about as threatening as a Derby striker. The wave of ‘ultra violence’ then continued post match, when for reasons unknown but seemingly inherent to French footballers, Patrice Evra launched himself at a ‘civilian’, who, considering his employment as a pitch side security guide, would have probably knocked him out had the fight not been split up (or exacerbated? It is not clear) by a mob of United players and coaching staff. And the reason for this pathetic behaviour? Yes, United had lost. It is precisely how I myself would have acted, had I been six years old and defeated at Tiddly winks by my brother. The only difference here, apart from that Tiddly Winks is a game of immeasurably more skill and finesse, is that we are not talking about children.
Fully-grown men’s acting in this way is disgraceful, and when coupled with the iconic status they hold to the nation’s young it becomes completely indefensible.

Professional footballer. Analyse the term. They play football, and by definition they are paid for it. It is their profession, and automatically demands a degree of professionalism right? Wrong. In the same way rock stars in the 70’s were plied by the record companies with as many drugs and women as needed to keep them sated, footballers are so heavily mollycoddled; surrounded by cars, Gucci sunglasses and Girls Aloud members to the extent where they feel immortal and certainly not subject to the same rules and regulations that govern the rest of us. I realise I may sound a little jealous (I concede I have a soft spot for Ferraris) but it angers me that this particular demographic are not reprimanded heavily enough for their habitual displays of petulance.

Let me put it in this way. I am a successful solicitor, I work a defence case, my client is found guilty, I smash up the bench and call the judge a c*nt. Consequently, I lose my job, my wife, my friends and my licence to practise law. Rightly so.

I am a Premier League footballer, I get riled by the smug defender whose leg I tripped over (deliberately), I stamp on his legs to gain retribution, I call the referee a c*nt, I receive a yellow card, I finish the game, get fined a morning’s wages (£4000) and go home to my adoring model wife. Hardly seems fair does it?

A case in point; though the incident was uniformly condemned, Eric Cantona received a mere one season ban for his attack on a fan at Selhurst Park. To put it into context, if a plumber attacked his customer in this way, it would probably have carried a five-year jail sentence as assault.

The exorbitant wages paid to players and the comparatively low fines for misbehaviour are also instrumental in promoting this behaviour amongst these young men. If I had the chance to punch a particular bloke from my office knowing full well that the most I would receive would be a ticking off and a 50 quid fine, I would take it, and probably every week.

The intrinsic ego of the modern day footballer must be reigned in. The salaries must begin to be capped worldwide by FIFA, and referees and managers must take a harder line with offenders who persist with childish behaviour similar to what we saw at Chelsea last week.,. Professional football needs to start becoming exactly that, before it descends even further into pathetic childish pantomime.

So, given his contempt for the game, perhaps the FA should hire Sir Alan to issue an ultimatum; behave or ‘you’re fired’.

Pete Grant

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